DC‘s New Age of Heroes launched earlier this year with an emphasis on creating new characters free from the albatross of 80 years of canon. Along with that, the publisher’s put a focus on the artists who’re often left behind in many contemporary comics conversations, listing their names first on covers and in the credits. I recently ventured to Burbank and visited the DC Comics headquarters where I chatted to Ryan Sook and Steve Orlando about their new addition to the New Age of Heroes, this summer’s The Unexpected! The book explores an entirely new group of superheroes whose main task is to stop comics crossover events before they happen by defeating massive villains. It’s a ridiculously fun idea and one that Sook and Orlando were incredibly excited about when I chatted to them this week.
The Unexpected is a vibrant book that’s epic in scope and for writer Orlando that was simply the way it had to be. “From day one when we talked about The Unexpected that was the tagline, ‘To prevent Crisis, expect The Unexpected.’ So if this was gonna be a team that’s combating these line-wide crossover level villains before they create another Metal, another Milk Wars, or another Final Crisis, we knew they had to be big and threats that big usually come from the Multiverse. They come from that concept of something bigger coming to eat the DC Universe, for lack of a better phrase,” Orlando enthused. “If a team lead by Neon the Guardian of Creation is gonna come at these things, you’ve gotta have energy and boldness to match that.”
The visual world of The Unexpected is created by Ryan Sook, Cary Nord, Mick Grey, Wade von Grawbadger, and FCO Plasencia. Sook’s character designs are a massive part of what gives The Unexpected such a unique aesthetic, and that, he says was all down to collaboration. “When I read Steve’s description, the designs and visual expression of these characters are so much a part of what their powers and unique abilities are, and their histories were so unique to me already. The way Steve described them, they were just innately interesting beyond the fact that they’re superheroes. They’re superheroes that for lack of a better word are bizarre,” Sook laughed. “I was given real liberty to build on those descriptions, expand on them, and collaborate with Steve. It all just grew together in a really organic way, which I think just makes this team really unique.”
New Age of Heroes is giving creators the chance to invent potentially iconic new properties in the same sandbox of the artists and writers they grew up with, and for Orlando that’s a huge deal. “In many ways the New Age books–and The Unexpected especially–are the next step, and that’s an even more exciting moment. We’re not just playing with the Justice League or the Suicide Squad–and by the way I would give my left arm to continue to play with them for the rest of my life–but the point is now we’re getting to build on those things. Now we’re creating the toys that people will love and that creators will use years down the line. It’s exciting on another level!” Orlando enthused.
The creative team are clearly exhilarated at the potential of The Unexpected finding new audiences who might be intimidated or exhausted by direct market comics. “If people get frustrated with big ‘cross-ins’ and ‘tie-overs’ and epic events and stuff like that because they want singularity to the story, the beauty of DC’s New Age of Heroes–in particular this title–being connected to these epic events is that you have brand new characters, brand new motivations, and brand new stories,” Sook explained. “Yet they’re all connected, which makes them familiar almost instantaneously.”
Along with new characters and motivations, The Unexpected is bringing big action and intensity to the page. “I think for people who want excitement, for people who want scale, for people who want strange, The Unexpected is as big as any DC comic that’s going on right now, and I think that’s the beauty of everything we’re talking about with the New Age of Heroes. The Unexpected and The Immortal Men are all new creations, and they’re leading the DC Universe. The Unexpected is as big as any book at DC right now. It’s as big as The Authority, it’s as big as Justice League, and it’s as weird as Doom Patrol,” Orlando teased.
Can’t wait for The Unexpected? Ready to see Neon the Unknown, Ascendant, Viking Judge, and Firebrand stop the crossover villains before they can cross over in the main DCU? Let us know below!
Images: DC Comics
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